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Public 'may need vitamin D supplements'

06 August 2015 09:22

Vitamin D supplements could be taken by the whole population

Vitamin D supplements could be taken by the whole population

Vitamin D supplements could be taken to compensate for the British weather, health experts say.

The Government's independent Scientific Advisory Body on Nutrition claims large numbers of the population are not getting enough of the essential vitamin from sunlight and natural food sources.

They suggest members of the public could use supplements to boost levels, not just at-risk groups like at present.

Health problems

The group declares that sunshine in the UK cannot be relied on to meet the vitamin D requirement.

Its call for supplements comes after its own research identified links between low vitamin D levels and a range of health problems, including musculo-skeletal health issues, heart disease, type 1 diabetes, cancer and multiple sclerosis.

Vitamin D performs several important functions.

One of its roles is helping to regulate the amount of calcium and phosphate in the body - nutrients that keep bones and teeth healthy.

A lack of it can also lead to bone pain and tenderness in adults as a result of a condition called osteomalacia.

Such medical conditions can be troublesome, affecting day-to-day living, but people can still enjoy trips abroad thanks to medical travel insurance, which provides cover for many conditions.

New guidance

Recent data published by Public Health England suggests more than one in five people have low levels of vitamin D.

Current advice is that only at-risk groups, including pregnant women, children up to the age of five and adults over 65, as well as those who do not expose their skin to sunlight, should take a daily vitamin D supplement.

But if the new draft recommendations are adopted, it could lead to new guidance affecting the whole population.

Dr Adrian Martineau, an expert on vitamin D's effect on health at Barts and the London School of Medicine and Dentistry, agrees sunshine in the UK cannot be relied on to meet vitamin D requirements.

He explains the action of sunlight on the skin across the country is highly variable for different populations depending on the time of year and the latitude, as well as how much skin is exposed and the colour of skin.